A felony has a big impact on a person’s life and if you live in Wisconsin, you’ve come here trying to find out how to get the felony off your record. Realize that with all felony records, there are three options you can take. 1) Expunge Your Record 2) Seal Your Record 3) Request a Pardon of Your Record. The problem though is that all states don’t offer all three of these options. But before we get into what Wisconsin offers, let’s review what each of these options actually mean.
If you get your record expunged in Wisconsin it’s as if your arrest and/or charges never happened. Your record is completely destroyed, including all physical and public records. When asked if have a criminal record, after expungement, you can truthfully answer “no”.
Sealing your record in Wisconsin is similar to expungement, but your record still exists in a limited form. The public does not have access to your record, but there are some exceptions. Your records can still be accessed by law enforcement and the courts. Record sealing is not as secure as expungement, but it is a reasonable alternative that is comparatively easier to obtain if your state offers it.
If you receive a pardon in Wisconsin, you still have record of your arrest or charge, but your guilt is exonerated. That is, you have proven that you are rehabilitated and forgiven for your crimes. You can also get relief in terms of having various rights restored, such as your right to vote. The requirements for pardons vary between states, but typically there is a lot of documentation required, and includes lengthy waiting periods to apply and receive a pardon.
Things to Know Before You Start
First: It’s important to understand that every state is different in terms of what methods are available for felons to remove their record and the information below will help you understand what you can do in Wisconsin.
Felony Expungement in Wisconsin
Yes, it is possible to expunge your felony in Wisconsin but it depends on the felony.
Sealing a Record in Wisconsin
Yes, it is possible to seal your record in Wisconsin but it depends on the felony.
Getting a Pardon in Wisconsin
Yes, it is possible to get a pardon of your record in Wisconsin but it depends on the felony.
Second: When trying to clear your record, you really have two options. The first is to get a free consultation from a lawyer to see what they think of your case, and the second is to try to do all of the paperwork yourself.
Third: We HIGHLY recommend that you get a free consultation from a lawyer prior to taking any action. We say this because whether you want to expunge, seal, or pardon your record, it’s an extremely complicated process. Failure to follow the process properly can end up with you being denied for the request and having to wait additional time (sometimes several years) before you can file again. In addition, getting an expungement lawyer can increase your odds of succeeding and sometimes it’s more affordable than you think. The first step is to click on the button below to confirm that you’re eligible for the expungement/sealing off your record.
Can You Expunge a Felony in Wisconsin?
There is no way to completely have your felony record removed in Wisconsin, but there are a number of things you can do to reduce the impact.
You can file to have your records expunged in Wisconsin, and although they will not be viewable to the public, they will be accessible to the courts and the police department. The Wisconsin Courts have almost universally denied anyone the right to have their records sealed.
The trial court makes this expungement decision at the time of sentencing, and not at the conclusion of the sentence or at some later time. The court may order, at the time of sentencing, that the record be expunged upon successful completion of the sentence if the court determines you will benefit and society will not be harmed by the decision.
CANNOT EXPUNGE IF…
Before 2009 – If you were convicted for a felony before July 1, 2009, when felonies were not eligible for expungement, you may not apply to have your records sealed.
Multiple felony convictions – You cannot have multiple felony convictions sealed
Over age 25 – If you were over the age of 25 at the time of the commission of your first time felony, then you may not apply to have your record sealed. More than six yearsIf the maximum punishment for your crime was over six years, you cannot apply to have your record sealed.
How to Expunge a Felony in Wisconsin
• Here is a link to the form to have your record expunged. Because the process is so complicated and time-consuming, we recommend you seek the professional help of an attorney.
• After completing the document, go to the court and get further direction as to where you should submit it.
Can You Seal Your Criminal Record in Wisconsin?
Sealing your record in Wisconsin is the exact same as expunging it. Therefore, just follow the expungement instructions above to try to eliminate your record.
Can You Apply for a Pardon in Wisconsin?
The Governor of Wisconsin can place any conditions, limitations, or restrictions on a pardon as he or she deems proper. There is a body called the Pardon Advisory Board within the Governor’s office, which receives, reviews, and make recommendations to the Governor on each pardon request. The Board holds quarterly public hearings where it listens to opinions supporting and opposing a pardon application. The Board is made up of 7 members who are appointed by the Governor.
CANNOT PARDON IF…
Probation, parole, or incarceratedIf you are currently on probation, parole, or incarcerated, you are generally not eligible to apply for a pardon.Note: The Governor or the Board can make an exception to this rule if you can show “extraordinary circumstances.” Here, an example of an extraordinary circumstance might be that you are suffering from a documented terminal illness, do not have much longer to live, and would like to be released early (via a pardon) so you can spend your last days with your loved ones.
Out-of-State conviction – The Governor can only grant a pardon for a Wisconsin State conviction
Five years have not passed – You are generally not eligible to apply for a pardon until at least five years have passed since you completed the sentence.
How to Apply for a Pardon in Wisconsin
There are no application fees to apply for a pardon in Wisconsin. As of this writing, neither the Governor’s office nor the Pardon Advisory Board has made its pardon application materials available for you to access on the Internet. You can obtain a pardon application package by calling the Governor’s office or writing.If you dig hard enough, you may be able to find a pardon application package on the Internet that other individuals or entities have posted there. If you do, make sure the application is the most up to date. Using an outdated application can cause your application to be rejected.
• Before you begin this process, we insist that you take this eligibility test to determine if you’re eligible to request a pardon for your record. In most cases, if you are eligible for expungement on our test, then you’ll be eligible for a pardon.
• If you are eligible, you should talk to the lawyer that we refer you to so that you get an idea of the price for their services (it’s likely cheaper than you think because requesting a pardon is mostly paperwork) and see what other helpful information they can give you.
• If you are not eligible based on our test, then you should stop here.
• If you are eligible based on our test and want to do this without a lawyer, continue reading.
• You can obtain a pardon application package by calling the Governor’s office directly at 608-266-1212 and ask for one to be sent or emailed to you. You can also write to:Office of the Governor, Pardon Advisory BoardRoom 115 East, State Capitol BuildingP.O. Box 7863Madison, WI 53707
• There will be detailed instructions in the application package the Governor’’s office sends you, which you should read carefully. We only detail some of the important ones here.If you do not meet the eligibility rules listed above (e.g., you are currently incarcerated or still or probation or parole, or it has been less than five years since you completed your sentence), you should ask the Governor’s office to also send you an “Eligibility Rule Waiver Request” form.
• If you do not have sufficient information about a particular conviction, you should contact the law enforcement agency that was involved in the case and/or the court where you were convicted. If you do not remember all of your convictions, you may need to obtain your criminal history report.
• You can do this by calling the Department of Justice, Crime Information Bureau, at (608) 266-2764. You can also make an online request at http://wi-recordcheck.org. The report should list all arrest, charges, and convictions you have ever received in Wisonsin.
• If you have convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. You can find out how to do this by calling the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., at (202) 324-3000, or logging onto its website at http://www.fbi.gov. The FBI’s website also has a list of local FBI offices you can call.
• Alternatively, you can contact the criminal history record repository (which keeps a record of all criminal activity in a state) in each state where you have arrests/convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.
• Among other things, you will be asked to list information about every conviction you have ever received, including the name of the crime, the date you committed it, the sentence you received, the date of the sentence, the date you were discharged, and the place where you were incarcerated (if applicable).
• You will need to attach along with your application a certified copy of the Judgment of Conviction and a certified copy of the Criminal Complaint for each conviction you are seeking a pardon for.
• You can obtain these documents from the clerk’s office in the court where you were convicted. (A certified copy is one that has the court clerk’s signature certifying that it is accurate and complete.)
• The clerk’s office will usually charge a small fee for obtaining these documents. If for some reason the clerk cannot find these documents, you need to ask them to provide you with a letter stating this.
• You should just be honest with the Board here.
• Describe what happened and the extent of your involvement. Keep in mind, however, that the Board/Governor will not be retrying you for the offense.
• Don’t try to make excessive excuses or argue away your guilt. However you feel about the crime, you have already been found guilty.
• This may be the most important part of your application.
• Tell the Board/Governor how your conviction has negatively affected you and/or your family. For example, explain how you have been denied housing or employment opportunities because of your conviction, and how this has prevented you from providing you and your family an adequate standard of living. Submit any proof you may have (such as denial letters) to support your claims.
• If you are facing deportation because of a conviction, explain how being separated from your family will negatively affect you as well as them.
• If you are pursuing a career in a field that requires you to obtain a pardon, submit documents, letters, or other proof from a prospective employer, licensing agency, or attorney verifying this necessity.
• If you need to regain your gun rights, explain why you need this—for example, you are pursuing a career that requires the use of firearms, or you want to take part in your family hunting traditions, or you simply want to feel more secure and able to defend yourself and/or your family after a recent traumatic event.
• The Board/Governor is probably more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.The application form will ask you to describe in your own words the facts/circumstances of each crime you are seeking a pardon for.You will also be asked to explain, on a separate sheet of paper, the reasons why you need a pardon.
• Also explain your plans for the future, and how a pardon would help you. Submit copies of your college transcript, high school diploma or GED, military certificates, marriage certificate, honors and awards, and other proof of your rehabilitation and good character.
• On the same sheet of paper, you must also explain to the Board all the positive things that have occurred in your life since your conviction, such as educational achievements, new or steady employment, marriage and children, community involvement, charitable donations, law-abiding behavior, etc.
• The forms for notifying these individuals are included in the application package.
• Their names are stated in the Judgment of Conviction sheet.
• If you cannot locate either of these individuals, you will need to give notice to the current Chief Judge and/or the current District Attorney in the county where you were convicted.
• The purpose of this is to solicit the opinions/recommendations of the judge and district attorney.
• At the hearing, the Board will ask you various questions, and you will have an opportunity to explain to the Board why you need a pardon. Although pardon hearings are typically not as formal as court hearings, you should still look and act your best; dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial.
• If possible, have friends, family, clergy, and other members of your community attend the hearing to show their support for your application.
• They may even have an opportunity to speak out for you.
• You will be notified of the time and place of the hearing.
• You do not need a lawyer at the hearing (in fact, the Board recommends against it).
• You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board and its agents at all times.The hearing is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Board see you in person as well as the support you have in your community.
• These letters should indicate to what extent the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you should be granted a pardon.
• The letters should also indicate the writer’s contact information for verification purposes.
• If possible, you should choose individuals who are not related to you, in order to avoid the appearance of bias. Keep a copy of everything you send for your records. Your completed application, including all supporting documents and letters of recommendation, should be sent to: Office of the Governor, Pardon Advisory Board Room 115 East, State Capitol BuildingO. Box 7863 Madison, WI 53707
Step 8. Additionally, if you were incarcerated, you will need to notify the prison keeper by sending a notice (included in the application package) to: Records Center, Dodge Correctional Institution P.O. Box 661 Waupun, WI 53963-0661
• The notices above will all need to be filled out, signed, and sent to the judge, district attorney, and Records Center (if applicable).
• These individuals will need to sign the forms and return them directly to the Governor’s office.
Step 9. If you are currently incarcerated, on probation or parole, and you received a waiver to apply for a pardon, you will need to publish a notice of your pardon hearing in a (subscription-based) newspaper in the county where you were convicted.
• The form for doing this will also be included in the application package.
• The notice will need to be published at least once per week for two consecutive weeks in the “legal notices” section of the newspaper.
• If you cannot afford to pay for the notice in the newspaper, you will need to send a copy of your prison account to the Governor’s office, who may publish the notice for you. The application form must notarized, which means it must be signed in front of a notary public. You can find a notary public in most banks. They typically charge a small fee, usually depending on whether you have an account with that particular bank. Also, although not required, we suggest that you submit a few letters of recommendation from credible people (such as your boss) who know you well and can say good things about you.
• After the Governor’s office receives your completed application, you will be asked to appear at a public hearing on your application before the Board.
• The Governor’s office will also notify the victim about your application and the hearing.
• The victim will be given an opportunity to submit their written opinion on your application.
• The victim will also be free to attend the hearing to oppose your application. After the hearing, the Board will meet to vote on whether to recommend the Governor grant or deny your application.You will be responsible for notifying the judge and district attorney (or assistant district attorney) who was involved in the case, even if they are no longer in office.
So, there you have it. Three separate ways to get rid of your record in Wisconsin. As we’ve said numerous times throughout this page, this is a really complicated process and we highly recommend that you take this eligibility test prior to taking any action to determine if you are eligible for any of these options.
Please note, the information contained here is not legal advice and is strictly informational. If you have any further questions about the information above, or in general, you need to contact a lawyer directly.